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Perrotto: Time for Pirates to Make Coaching Staff Change

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Pittsburgh Pirates, Andy Haines

PITTSBURGH – Paul Skenes was brilliant again. Ultimately, it didn’t matter.

The big rookie right-hander gave up a home run to Yandy Diaz on the game’s first pitch and that turned out to be the only run Skenes allowed Sunday in a career-high seven innings. However, Skenes got only a no-decision.

The Pirates lost to the Tampa Bay Rays 3-1 at PNC Park. They again wasted a strong starting pitching performance.

Colin Holderman, who has been brilliant all season, took the loss when he gave two runs in the eighth innings to snap a 1-1 tie. While Holderman was the losing pitcher, this defeat can be pinned on the offense.

The Pirates managed just three hits, two by Bryan Reynolds as the left fielder extended his hitting streak to 20 games. The impotent hitting came on a day when the Rays started Aaron Civale, who hasn’t won a game since April 9 and had a 6.37 ERA in his previous 12 starts.

If it seemed like the same old story for the Pirates, well, because it was. Games like Sunday have happened continually this season.

Host Dan Zangrilli brought up a telling statistic during the post-game radio show. The Pirates have lost 17 games this season – which isn’t half over — when their starting pitcher has gone at least six innings.

That’s a remarkable stat for two reasons.

One it shows how much good pitching the Pirates have wasted. If they had won even eight of the 17 games, their record would be 45-32. They would be in first place in the National League Central.

Two is that Zangrilli has a lot of courage to say something like that on the air considering the Pirates organization’s hypersensitivity to criticism. Hopefully, for Zangrilli’s sake, Pirates owner Bob Nutting didn’t hear it.

I have some experience, spending the 2009 season covering the Pirates for Nutting’s Ogden Newspapers. The Pirates were awful that year, finishing 62-99.

I got shown the door two days after the season because I was told I was “too negative.” That’s OK, I’d rather preserve journalistic integrity.

Sorry to digress but speaking of firings, I never like to see anyone lose their job. I have rarely advocated for anyone to be fired in my 37 years covering the Pirates and MLB.

However, Sunday provided more proof that the Pirates need a change. They need to fire hitting coach Andy Haines.

The Pirates are 23rd in run scored among the 30 MLB clubs and 28th in OPS. That’s not cutting it and is the cause of so many frustrating losses.

This is Haines’ third season with the Pirates and the offense has shown no significant improvement. They were 27th in runs scored and 28th in OPS in 2022 then 22nd in both categories last season.

The underachieving Pirates hitters in 2024 include Ke’Bryan Hayes, Jack Suwinski, Rowdy Tellez, Michael A. Taylor, Yasmani Grandal, Henry Davis and Jared Triolo.

It remains quite telling that Hayes felt compelled to circumvent Haines last year and clandestinely work with Double-A hitting coach Joe Nunnally, who was fired at the end of the season. If Haines couldn’t gain Hayes’ trust, you wonder how many other Pirates hitters tune him out.

The Pirates have been spinning their wheels all season. However, they don’t have to be great to reach the postseason for the first time since 2015 as the NL is filled with mediocre teams.

However, the Pirates won’t be playing in October if they keep wasting some of the best pitching they’ve had in years. The offense desperately needs a jolt and, as the adage goes, you can’t fire all the players.

What the Pirates can do, though, is give the hitters a new voice and new ideas.

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